Saturday, December 12, 2009

Janice Blixt named MSF artistic director


New MSF Artistic Director Janice Blixt
Press release from the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, November 11, 2009:
After months of searching and interviews, The Michigan Shakespeare Festival is proud to announce the selection of their new Artistic Director: Janice L. Blixt.
Janice is currently the Producing Artistic Director of A CREW OF PATCHES THEATRE COMPANY, a Chicago repertory company specializing in Shakespeare. For the Patches she has directed such classics as: JULIUS CAESAR, MACBETH, TWELFTH NIGHT, and ROMEO & JULIET. For other Chicago theatres she has directed ROMEO & JULIET, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, THE COMEDY OF ERRORS, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, and HENRY V. She has also been the vocal director and text coach for OTHELLO, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, and HAMLET.
Janice has also made a name for herself in the world of workshops and classes, teaching classical text work, voice, and Folio Technique for professional actors, Eastern Michigan University, Loyola University, The City Colleges of Chicago, and for high schools around Chicago and its suburbs.
Janice received her MFA in Acting from Detroit’s Hilberry Repertory Theatre at Wayne State and BA’s in Theatre Arts and Literature from Bradley University.
While in the Detroit area, she performed for Meadow Brook, the Jewish Ensemble Theatre, Heartlande, and the Shadow Theatre Company. Since moving to Chicago, she has worked with City Lit Theatre, Bowen Park, The Next, and Timeline.
Her great joy is, and has always been, Shakespeare. Past roles include Lady Macbeth; Viola, Olivia, and Maria in TWELFTH NIGHT; Portia and Metella in JULIUS CAESAR, Lady Capulet and the Nurse in ROMEO & JULIET; Isabella in MEASURE FOR MEASURE; Rosalind in AS YOU LIKE IT; Beatrice in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING; Dionyza in PERICLES, Isabella in EDWARD III.
Janice is delighted to return to the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, where she performed Kate in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, Titania in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, and Queen Elizabeth in RICHARD III. She is married to longtime MSF actor, director, and fight choreographer David Blixt, with whom she shares two wonderful children, Dashiell and Evelyn.
Janice is both honored and immensely excited at this opportunity, just as the Michigan Shakespeare Festival is delighted and honored to have her. Please join us this summer for her inaugural season of ROMEO & JULIET and A COMEDY OF ERRORS!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Give summer Shakespeare getaway


The Michigan Shakespeare Festival is offering a great gift for the Shakespeare lover on your holiday list. You can purchase a one-, two-, or three-play package to the Michigan Shakespeare Festival in Jackson, Michigan next summer. Packages are available for the weekends of July 23, 24, and 25; July 30, 31, and August 1; and August 6, 7, and 8 when two Shakespeare plays: Romeo & Juliet and The Comedy of Errors, and Alfred Uhry's Driving Miss Daisy will be offered in repertory.

Packages are available for:
$99 for two tickets to one play and dinner for two at Daryl's Downtown (special menu, no alcohol included)
$250 for two tickets to two plays, dinner for two at Daryl's Downtown (special menu, no alcohol included), a Saturday overnight at The Claddagh including full breakfast Sunday morning, and a backstage tour and a private meeting with the new MSF artistic director (name not announced at this time).
$299 for two tickets to three plays, and all of the above. Taxes are included in all packages, but gratuities are not.

The brochure says: 
Michigan Shakespeare Festival features professional Shakespearean actors from across the country. Performances are held in the intimate Michael Baughman Theatre at the Potter Center at Jackson Community College. Bolt, Beranek and Newman, international experts in acoustics, designed the theater. Seats were raised to create better sight lines, the house was electronically tuned to ensure even sound quality throughout, and light and sound equipment was designed and build especially for the Baughman. Experience Shakespeare in a superb setting!
 Benefits include, according to the brochure:
  • Choose the package that works best for you.
  • Choose the dates and plays you prefer.
  • Pay less for tickts, lodging and means than you would on your own.
  • Take advantage of a flexible payment plan.
  • Forget about making reservations -- MSF will do everything for you.
Holiday packages will be tailored to the clients request and are not available through the Potter Center Box Office or online. Call the MSF at 517-998-3673 to order a package. The holiday package is available through December 31, 2009. MSF development consultant Kyle Anne Jansen said MSF hopes to offer similar packages in the future.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Oberon chair weighs in on Shapiro

Oberon Chairperson Tom Hunter posted a comment on De Vere Society Secretary Richard Malim's report on the Nov. 28 conference at The Globe theater in London on the Shakespeare Oxford Society blog.

Hunter's long comment addresses his understanding of Malim's report on James Shapiro's view of the authorship question -- a view that will be elucidated with the publication of Shapiro's Contested Will to be published March/April 2010.

Hunter said, in part:
Shapiro appears to be saying that (18th century Shakespeare biographer Edmond) Malone’s failing is this: “It diminishes the power of Shakespeare’s imagination: all his characters are within that imagination.” In other words, Shapiro has brought Stratfordians to another dead end, an equivalent of the genius defense, and a betrayal of their misunderstanding of how literature is created.
View the report and Hunter's entire comment on the SOS blog at:
http://shakespeareoxfordsociety.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/malim-reports-on-globe-conference/

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Shakespeare monologues at UM School of Music Dec. 3

Graduate students at the University of Michigan will perform opera and Shakespearean monologues in the McIntosh Theatre Thursday, December 3 (details below). Director Joshua Major had this to say about the event:
The performers are the 12 members of my Opera Workshop class - graduate level. Each will be singing an aria and the repertoire is varied, though there is a lot of Handel on the program. Each student was assigned a Shakespeare monologue and will be performing that as well. Unfortunately the arias and the monologues have no relation to each other, except that they are learning tools. Occasionally I am able to program thematically, or do a program of Shakespeare monologues  along with excerpts from opera scenes based on Shakespeare.

I have assigned Shakespeare over the years and found it to be a wonderful exercise on many levels. Understanding language, the acting process, metaphor, the relationship between word and music. It also unlocks and demystifies a world that is intimidating and foreign. The students end up adoring Shakespeare. I like that it pushes them out of their comfort zones as well.
Joshua Major, Opera Director, University of Michigan; Artistic Director, Pine Mountain Music Festival
Opera Workshop
E.V. Moore Building, McIntosh Theatre (UM School of Music, North Campus, 1100 Baits Drive, Ann Arbor MI 48109-2085. 734-764-0583)
7:30 p.m.

Opera Workshop I presents an evening of arias and Shakespeare monologues.  Joshua Major, director; Timothy Cheek, music director.
Free - no tickets required

And don't forget the student production of the Scottish play Thurs - Sun Dec. 10-13:

Macbeth
Power Center, Huron & Thayer Sts., Ann Arbor MI
Thursday 7:30 PM, Friday & Saturday 8:00 PM, Sunday 2:00 PM
Dept. of Theatre & Drama.  by William Shakespeare.  Directed by Philip Kerr What happens when ambition eclipses civility? The classic tragedy about one couple’s ruthless pursuit of power. Reserved Seating $24/$18/$9 with student ID
Tickets available at the League Ticket Office 734-764-2538 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Michigan Shakespeare Festival invites Oberon to present pre-game

Oberon Chair Tom Hunter accepted the invitation of Michigan Shakespeare Festival Managing Director Robert Duha to present two pre-play, public talks during the 2010 festival season. Dates have not yet been set for the performance of Romeo and Juliet and Comedy of Errors next summer because the festival is currently negotiating for a new artistic director to replace John Neville Andrews. Duha said an announcement is imminent.

Duha reported that the festival hired David Blixt to create a 75-minute version of Romeo and Juliet that the company will tour in Jackson County high schools next April. Blixt is a Shakespearean actor, author of the novel Master of Verona, and founder with wife Janice Lee Blixt of A Crew of Patches Chicago-based, Shakespearean theater company.

Duha said the festival plans to repeat their annual high school monologue contest, and they hope to present the finalists at the festival for the first time this year. He also said the festival's new Marketing Director Sandra Xenakis plans to offer playgoing packages for holiday gift-giving. Packages will include tickets, dinner, and bed-and-breakfast accommodations for next summer's festival. For more information, check the website at Michigan Shakespeare Festival, email MSF@acd.net, or call 517-998-3673.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tom Hunter announces agenda for Nov. 18 meeting

Dear Oberon,

For the first time ever (and maybe the last) an agenda for the upcoming Oberon meeting this Wednesday, Nov. 18, is included below. Just scroll down. This whole project is dedicated to Sue.

Here is inside information about what we will be covering Wednesday evening 7 p.m. at our usual room at the Farmington Hills library on 12 Mile Rd. between Farmington Rd. and Orchard Lake Rd.

It will be a packed and fast moving meeting which will include a special welcome to Robert Duha,  managing director of the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, who will announce a special place Oberon will have in plans for the 2010 MSF season.

We will conclude our celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s sonnets with a look into their personal nature by Tom Townsend and some perhaps surprising connections to Edward de Vere by yours truly.

We will also hear from our intrepid travelers back from the Houston Shakespeare Oxford Society/ Shakespeare Fellowship conference with news of the highlights and, if we are lucky, high jinks, you know the kind of craziness that breaks out when a bunch of Oxfordians get together.

And more. Much more, including a message from Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

And the lemon cookies!  Don’t forget the lemon cookies. They’re a surprise.

Your chairperson,
Tom Hunter

11/18/09 AGENDA

7:00     Welcome remarks: Tom H
            Special welcome to Robert Duha and lemon cookies
            ANYONE KNOW how to do conference meeting, e.g. so Robert
            can “attend”?  Richard—need cell phone with speakerphone
           
            Also welcome home to Linda, Richard, Tom T. and Ron
            from Houston conference two weeks ago

            Tonight we will conclude our celebration of the 400th
            anniversary of Shakespeare’s sonnets which we began last
            meeting with the conclusion of Tom Townsend’s presentation
            and a hopefully brief presentation by me

Treasurer’s report : Tom T

Robert Duha has offered us two spots at next year’s Michigan Shakespeare Festival
            New director named yet?
            News we should know?

UMS LLL mixed reviews from our group
Actor sat behind us on someone’s lap and took Rosey’s copy of LLL to follow along the dialogue; make LLL notes available

Upcoming Shakespeare:  MND at the Hilberry
  
Appearance of first issue of Brief Chronicles
            An excellent one, articles by Nina Green, Peter Moore, Robert Detobel et al,
            with a book review by me
  
Oberon in somerset collection
  
Booking the blog: Linda
            soft cover 30 each, min 10 copies is 27 each hard cover c42
            order 4 copies:  Oberon, Tom, Robin, Richard

Blog traffic: Linda

Letter from Justice Stevens

Sonnets concluded
            Tom Townsend—depression and sadness, personal nature of sonnets
            Tom Hunter—some possible Oxfordian connections
 Houston conference – report next meeting Nov. 18
            Linda, Ron, Richard, Tom T.: What impressed you the most/was the most important thing that happened at the conference or came out of it?

Any news from the national? Richard

Oxfordian Show and Tell?
   
How to use Declaration of Reasonable Doubt in Oberon activities?  Did nothing w/ it at LLL

Next regular meeting: Jan  20, 2010 (6:45 p.m. Farmington Hills Community Library)
Schedule through June 2010:Feb 17, Mar 17, Apr 21, May 19, June 16

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ensemble Chaconne -- songs from Shakespeare's plays



Ensemble Chaconne - "Measure for Measure: Songs from Shakespeare's Plays"
Friday, November 13 • 7:30 p.m. • Concordia University, Chapel of the Holy Trinity
Tickets: $15 - ($10 for students/seniors)

Ensemble Chaconne (Peter H. Bloom, Renaissance flute; Carol Lewis, viola da gamba; Olav Chris Henriksen, Renaissance lute) and mezzo-soprano Pamela Dellal transport the audience to Shakespeare’s time with Measure for Measure: The Music of Shakespeare’s Plays, hailed by The Portland Press Herald as “the perfect Elizabethan evening.” Now in its 24th season, Ensemble Chaconne has been praised for “vitality and character…style and verve” (MusicWeb International). Mezzo-soprano Pamela Dellal has been touted for her “lushly fluid” singing (The Washington Post) and her “gleaming vocal colors” (The Boston Globe).

Concordia University
4090 Geddes Road
Ann Arbor, MI  48105
734.995.4612
(just west of US-23 in Ann Arbor off exit 39)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Summerset Collection quotes Oberon chair

Dear Oberon,

You might by now have received in the mail or otherwise the latest edition of Somerset Mall's thick and glossy advertising magazine called Somerset Collection. On page 56, you will find a short article titled "The Bard is Back: In a society where old often becomes new again, a renewed fervor for Shakespeare" about Shakespeare's huge current popularity with a quote by yours truly as to why.  Reporter Taryn Bickley said:
The play’s the thing,” quote Hamlet in the eponymous tragedy by William Shakespeare. The Bard’s words still ring true. There’s a burgeoning trend among the younger set toward highbrow theater (think Academy Award nominee Abnne Hathaway doing viola from Twelfth Night in New York City’s Shakespear in the Park this year).
Thomas Hunter, chairperson of Oberon, a Shakespearean discussion and research group in Orchard Lake isn’t surprised. “His universality and eternal themes – identity, love, ambition, and evil. His passion for understanding who we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going. Who could resist all of these?”
Ms. Bickley judiciously omitted the reams of replies I gave her to other questions, but she did mention Oberon, although she erroneously put us in Orchard Lake (instead of Farmington Hills). Notice also that she did leave the theme of identity in the quote probably having no idea of the can of worms we can make of it.

Your chairperson,
Tom Hunter

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hunter invites members to Nov. 18 meeting

Dear Oberon,

This has truly been a busy month for Shakespeare studies. There is a lot of catching up to do, which we will be doing at our next meeting at the Farmington Library Wednesday evening Nov. 18.

In the mean time, we wish safe travels to our Oberon delegation to the annual conference to be held in Houston this year this coming weekend. We are looking forward to hearing reports from Richard, Linda, Ron and Tom at the Nov. 18 meeting.

Also, we will be rounding out our Sonnets celebration from last meeting.

And doing a lot of catching up, including our take on the UMS Globe Theater Love's Labour's Lost and an exciting development with the Michigan Shakespeare Festival.

See you on the 18th!

Tom Hunter
Oberon Chair

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Alexandra Clement-Jones plays Richard II


Rude Mechanicals troupe takes a bow after Oct. 24, 2009 performance of Richard II.


The University of Michigan's student acting troupe, The Rude Mechanicals, presented Shakespeare's Richard II in October at the Duderstadt Center Video Gallery. I arrived to a chaotic scene with ticket sellers turning away disappointed students. I asked if they would seat non-ticket-holders for no-shows before curtain-time, but was told it was hopeless. The mother of student director Jim Manganello presented me with a ticket and I donated money for cookies for the cast in Oberon's name. I am so glad I didn't miss this magnificent production. 

120-150 patrons (estimated) were seated on risers on either side of a three-foot-high runway stage about 10 x 30 feet . (Measurements are guess-timates of size.) Sixteen- by four-foot-high screens hung behind both sets of audience risers showed projected images of moving humans and an industrial cityscape in black and white. Another block of 25 seats was placed in a view restricted space in front of the end of the stage to accommodate an overflow of patrons. Steel I-beams formed arches over the stage supported by flying buttresses. A large, carved-wood, pew-style bench sat at the far end of the stage.

The troupe of courtiers onstage dressed in dress pants, white shirts, and silk ties. They occasionally donned vintage tail coats or jackets. Cris Reilly played the King’s favorite  Green as an androgynous figure with long, luxuriant red curls like a Botticelli angel and effete gestures.

A woman dressed like the courtiers in pants and shirt entered upstage shrugging into a brocade gown. Courtiers addressed her as “my liege” and the female King Richard -- played with complete aplomb by Alexandra Clement-Jones -- emerged to our view. This elegantly regal creature with razor-edged diction and a muscular command of the stage inhabited the king with a strength that made gender superfluous.

Scenes developed with orchestral accompaniment like jazzy sound effects. Composer Marc LeMay conducted the ensemble of flute, keyboard, marimba, bass, and violin.

Director Jim Manganello played a commanding Lancaster. His brother Jon Manganello played Northumberland and brother Paul Manganello played his son, the younger Percy. The entire cast of nineteen actors performed with a commitment, passion, and clarity that was thrilling to experience.

Their stagecraft was superb. The death of Richard’s favorites was accomplished with intense music and an explosion of red paper that fell into the audience like gouts of blood. Choreographed movement throughout the play added to the sense of pomp and gravity. Performers leapt from the stage, using the space in front of the seats as a performance area as well.

I have seen the Royal Shakespeare, the Globe, the Guthrie, the Canadian Stratford, and various other fine companies, but this performance was by far the most clear, authentic and exciting Shakespearean experience I’ve ever had -- except for my very first time at age 15 seeing Julius Caesar at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University). I’m beginning to think that only the young are passionate enough to fulfill Shakespeare.

I spoke to composer Marc LeMay after the curtain and asked if he would be interested in speaking to Oberon about their production and he graciously said he would be interested in doing that. I also asked about getting a copy of the recording taken of the performance and he seemed to think this would be possible, too. I long for that video. I wish everyone could have that experience.

The University Activities Center
4002 Michigan Union
530 S. State St. #541
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1349
(734) 763-1107
Producer Rebecca Noble: rebnoble@umich.edu
Composer Marc LeMay: lemusic@umich.edu

Richard II cast:
Richard, Alexandra Clement-Jones
Lancaster, Jim Manganello
Bolingbroke, Max Kaufman
Mowbray/Carlisle, Josh Berkowitz
Aumerle, Andrew Whipple
Green, Kris Reilly
Bushy, Roderick Jefferson
Bagot, Sahib Singh
York, Daniel Rubens
Queen, Elise Randall
Northumberland, Manganello
Willoughby, Neal Kelley
Ross, Sanjay Jolly
Percy, Jon Manganello
Berkeley/Westminster, Arvind Namasivayam
Captain, Liam White
Ladies, Grace Hawkins and Mary Harrell
Gardiner, Sahil Saluja
Duchess of York, Kaela Parnicky

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Review of Friday's performance of Richard II by the Rude Mechanicals in Ann Arbor

Annette and I went to see a performance of Richard II yesterday by the Rude Mechanicals, a theatre group in Ann Arbor that casts mostly students as actors. There was a bit of excitement at the performance which I shall now relate.

The power went off a few minutes before the play was scheduled to start, it would have been amusing if this was the Power Center, but alas it was the Video Studio. Since they had to cancel the show and we had about 25 minutes before they had to clear the building out due to regulations, the cast decided to do as much of the play as they could as quickly as they could! That was a lot of fun with the actors perfectly enunciating the lines at double the speed. John of Gaunt assured the audience that the upcoming duel between Mowbray and Bolingbroke would unfortunately have to be stopped by King Richard as it was too dangerous to do in double time without adequate electric lighting. I was maliciously hoping that some people who did not know the play well enough would protest at this roughshod deviation from Shakespeare's immortal work, after all doesn't every history play have a decent swordfight or two? I am sure the madcap Duke and King from Huckleberry Finn would have been proud of this performance!

Fifteen minutes into this, someone came in and announced that they had found an alternate venue with power (surprisingly not the Power Center) and we all went to the other venue, some people helping to carry the props. Ultimately, we got treated to almost a street theatre performance of Richard II with the ensemble in their everyday clothes. A very fashionable lot I might add, which made me look at the regular fit jeans I had on with a little bit of chagrin.

The cast used a couple of chairs and came up with stage management ideas as they went along but the performance was very effective as the power of the words came to the fore. In changing the venue, they had also lost the University of Michigan musicians (violins, cello, piano) who were going to accompany the play with tastefully done music. Instead we had Henry IV and the Duke of York improvising a hodge-podge of jazz, show-tunes and classical music parts on a piano that happened to be on stage. If you were close enough to stage right near the piano, you might have heard mutterings about how being a versatile piano player fluent in many genres was more in line with who he really was than an usurper.

After the performance, we stumbled our way back to our cars using the light from a few solitary stars and the VA hospital.

Disclaimer: Most excellent Theophilus,the above is a faithful recording of what happened with the occasional stretcher. I'm not telling what's true and what's not and neither is my friend Falstaff.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

George Hunter essay


Oberon member George Hunter offers the following essay for readers' consideration.

Authorship as a University Discipline: Shakespeare vs The Earl of Oxford
The Question
     How can authorship become a university discipline?
The Solution
     Research must have a two-fold interest, one, to deal with matters of general interest to current university disciplines; and second, to also deal with matters of interest to the question of authorship.   Some of this research may already exist. 
 
Examples of Research with a Two-fold Interest.
     How does a current theatrical company respond to a new play?  Is the playwright present during rehearsals?  Does the cast offer new dialogue?  How often is there a major rewrite of the play?  Does someone else work the script rather than the playwright?  These are questions of interest to university disciplines but may also throw light on the question of authorship, that is, how could a play, written by Oxford,  be transformed into a theatrical performance ascribed to Shakespeare?
      Variety, a show business publication, has a wealth of information about the current and past theater.  Is there a record of a secret playwright?  How do theater people communicate with each other?  Does everybody know each other's business?  How difficult is it to keep a secret?  Again, these are questions of general interest which also deal with the question of how the Earl of Oxford's authorship was kept a secret.
     In the early British navy,  sailors could not speak out against an officer, but  they could express their feelings in song without fear of reprisal.  In Soviet Russia there were songs, jokes, and jingles expressing negative feelings about the government.  What evidence is there of songs, jokes, and jingles in general but also about the authorship question. 
 Summary   
     This approach will constitute a defacto recognition of the authorship question as a university discipline in which there is reasonable doubt about both Shakespeare and the Earl of Oxford as authors of the body of literature currently ascribed to William Shakespeare.  The goal is to develop a body of evidence both for and against both William Shakespeare and the Earl of Oxford.  
 
Addendum
     About two months ago I emailed a gist of the above (I can't find a copy of the email) to ten acting companies associated with universities and ten to community or professional acting companies. I did not expect to, and did not, get a response but I hope that someone in the future will consider the issue and eventually respond in some way. This may be our best access to a university discipline.
 George Hunter, a.k.a. Tommy Mysliwiec
    Retired Social Worker
    Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

Monday, October 19, 2009

Richard II in A2 next weekend

Richard II
October 23 & 24
Friday at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday at 3:00 & 7:00 p.m.
Video Studio, Duderstadt Center on North Campus of University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


The Rude Mechanicals present William Shakespeare's Richard II, directed by James Manganello and produced by Rebecca Penn Noble. The Rude Mechanicals are a theater troupe dedicated to bringing staged theater to the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor community and to providing the opportunity for any member of the student body to be involved, be it in performing or behind-the-scenes work. Tickets available at the Michigan Union Ticket Office or at the door; $3 for students and $6 for adults.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The tipping point

University of Michigan English Professor Ralph Williams, 67, is a specialist in Medieval and Renaissance literature. He has spent his life teaching Shakespeare, and was instrumental in creating and developing the Royal Shakespeare Company Residency program at the University of Michigan, according to university sources. A charmer in the lecture hall -- lithe and graceful in a mis-matched, gray suit -- Williams uses his body and voice like an actor. There can be no question that he loves the Bard.

“Shakespeare is so intimately wrought in the English language that he is on your breath every day of your life – you speak Shakespeare,” he said from the stage, his voice resonant and intent.

On October 12 in Rackham Auditorium, at the first in a series of “Who is . . .” lectures on playwrights whose work is being presented at the university this season, the first words out of Williams mouth are stunning.

“Shakespeare is the only one in this series whose historical identity has been called into question,” Williams said. “I shant spend a lot of time on that.”

And he didn’t. His account of the playwright was pure Stratford. His handout materials recommended Bate, Greenblatt, Schoenbaum, and Wells. Ogburn,  Sobran, Anderson, Price, and Stritmatter had no place in his story. And yet, those telling first words announced that the tipping point has come when no one – not even the most devout Stratfordian – can talk biography without acknowledging the questionable authorship.

Williams trotted out Stratfordian mythology:

“Will started school at 6 a.m. and attended continuously for eight years studying Latin grammar and rhetoric and he spoke only in Latin at the higher stages. He had three years of Greek. In short, he had as much Latin as a PhD student at the University of Michigan. The theory he was an uneducated bumpkin of the Midlands is overstated.”

“Henry VI was a barnstorming success – was said to have had 10,000 spectators which brought him considerable envy by those university playwrights who referred to him as a ‘. . . crow dressed in others feathers’.”


But: 
  • There is no evidence whatsoever that the Stratford man attended school – saying so is sheer speculation.
  • The “crow” quote from Groatsworth of Wit never mentions Shakespeare, let alone a playwright from Stratford. The actor named is a “shake-scene”. To assume that term could only refer to the man from Stratford is sheer speculation.
  • There is not a single word written in the Stratford man’s hand, only five painfully made signatures on legal documents. Assumptions that the Stratford man could write is sheer speculation.
Regarding the authorship controversy, Williams said:
“Although generated in 1920 -- that is very widespread now – by a person with the unfortunate name spelled L-o-o-n-e-y who said the work was by the Earl of Oxford. It has become a virtual industry.”

During the question period, authorship researcher Tom Hunter, gently chided Williams for this remark. “You said what we do has become an industry. On the contrary, Stratford is an endless $800-million a year industry.”

Hunter and Williams agreed to discussion, whereupon Williams pronounced the death knell of Stratfordianism:

“The part that really matters to me most profoundly about ‘Who is Shakespeare?’ -- Shakespeare is most profoundly his presence in our culture. It wouldn’t disturb me if it was discovered that Shakespeare was a name assumed – that would not upset me.”

. . . That love and pity are -- or ought to be -- at the heart of our humanity, he (Shakespeare) believed."


Love and pity from the litigious Stratfordian who disinherited his wife and never educated his children? No wonder Williams is willing to give him the boot.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2007-08 Oberon yearbook available from Blurb.com


I hope you will be pleased to see that the 2007-08 Oberon yearbook is now available through Blurb.com. The 120-page book features all the posts made on the Oberon blog since it's beginning in July 2007. Click on the book poster in the Oberon blog sidebar to see a preview, or go to: http://www.blurb.com/books/899934. Anyone may order a copy at: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/899934. The cost of a softcover edition is $29.95 plus shipping.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ralph Williams on the turbulent life of Shakespeare


The University Musical Society is holding several events preparatory to their Loves Labors Lost run Oct. 20-25 at the Power Center in Ann Arbor. One may presume the following will NOT be an Oxfordian event. Apparently Professor Williams finds Stratford life turbulent -- although the turbulence in Stratford doesn't seem to be reflected in the plays. I can't imagine this event will be anything but an exercise in imagination:


Who is William Shakespeare?
Monday, October 12, 7-8:30 pm
Rackham Auditorium, 915 East Washington, Ann Arbor

UMS’s Who Is…? Series aims to break down the barriers between performer and audience by demystifying the artists behind great work. To kick off the series, UM Professor Ralph Williams will explore the turbulent life and unparalleled work of William Shakespeare, whose legacy has continued to inspire some of the greatest artists of our own time.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Oberon meeting October 7


Dear Oberon,
 
Don't forget that we are meeting early this month, this coming Wednesday, Oct. 7, at the Farmington Library at 7 p.m.
 
We will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shake-speare's Sonnets in 1609.  Several Oberon members will explore different aspects of the Sonnets. When you leave the meeting, you may appreciate the sonnets as never before.
 
Come for a fascinating look into the most intimate and personal of all of Shakespeare's writing.  We will see how Shakespeare himself broods about the authorship issue and, in doing so, practically tells us who he is.
 
Tom Hunter, Oberon Chair

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hunter reports on ALI presentation

Dear Oberon,

It is my pleasure to report that approximately 40 members of the Adult Learning Institute graciously, many enthusiastically, attended our Oberon presentation Thursday, October 1, featuring Ron Destro’s “Who Really Wrote Shake-speare?”

The Adult Learning Institute is a remarkable organization of 180 senior citizens who attend an impressive, challenging series of lectures, performances, seminars, and other programs about historical, literary, cultural, social and other topics and issues.

ALI is affiliated with the Elderhostel Institute Network and sponsored by Oakland Community College which hosts the group’s activities at its Orchard Ridge Campus.

In brief opening remarks, I polled the audience. The overwhelming majority of those in attendance raised their hands when asked if they believed that William Shakspere of Stratford wrote the plays attributed to William Shakespeare as we have been taught. A small number of hands went up to indicate those who thought someone else might have written the plays under the name Shakespeare. In all truth, even that small number might have been skewed a bit since it included several Oberon members and others already acquainted with the issue.

Immediately after Destro’s DVD concluded, the same vote was taken. This time, only two of the original vast majority for Shakspere of Stratford remained. The rest of the audience now doubted that the Stratford man was the true author and saw the issue as a legitimate subject of further research.

These results are entirely consistent with Mr. Destro’s experience with audiences which he has acquainted with the authorship issue. He should know that this audience was quite appreciative of his presentation, and I would like to thank him once again for making it available to us.

Especially gratifying to me was the interest in authorship displayed by ALI members as evidenced by their perceptive questions, their open minds, their welcoming new ideas and willingness to accept challenge to established beliefs. It is a confirmation of the hunger of young and old alike to know more about authorship once they become aware of the details. It is a demonstration that once one understands the issues of authorship, one must admit and accept the reasonable doubt which results and pursue further investigation.

As I explained to the two ladies who voted for the Stratford man at the end, we have no intention of taking away anybody’s Shakespeare. But, for me and for so many others, the reading and research which I have done in pursuit of the issue have increased my enjoyment and understanding of Shakespeare more than I can express. Then I added, we must pursue the issue if only to establish the truth. When I said the word “truth,” a man in the last row who had not taken part in the discussion nodded his head vigorously. It is such a simple thing. As one 16th century aristocrat wrote time and again, we must never forget about the truth. “For,” as he wrote, “truth is truth though never so old and time cannot make that false which once was true.” His name was Edward de Vere, and it is clear that he is speaking clearly across the centuries to us still.

Tom Hunter, Oberon Chair

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

All's Well HD broadcast from NT



The University Musical Society is sponsoring a presentation of All's Well That Ends Well broadcast in High Definition from the National Theater at 5 p.m. October 11 in the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. Tickets are $22. Is this a harbinger of future HD broadcasts inspired by the success of the Met's opera simulcasts?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Road trip!

Critic Caldwell Titcomb reported yesterday in The Arts Fuse on the Actors from the London Stage (AFTLS) performance of King Lear at universities around the country.


Titcomb says:
Shakespeare’s challenging “King Lear” is the vehicle for this year’s fall tour of the troupe called Actors From the London Stage (AFTLS). This project was begun in 1975, and has been flourishing ever since, with impressive results.
Read his review at: The Arts Fuse Theater Review: "Actors From the London Stage"


AFTLS is based at Notre Dame in South Bend, but Oberons have missed their fall presentation of King Lear there. They'll be nearby at Butler University in Indianapolis October 19-25 and at DePauw University (Greencastle, Indiana) November 2-8. The group will do Romeo and Juliet January 25-31, 2010 at Notre Dame and tour the play next spring. First South Bend then on to more Shakespeare in Chicago! Sounds like a road trip to me -- or a conference site!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tom Hunter says new Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter arrived


Dear Oberon,

There in my mailbox today was our own Linda Theil's second SOS Newsletter. What a treat!  Impressive indeed. Thick, full pages crammed full with great information and analysis about the authorship issue. Linda is quickly establishing a reputation of quality as the newsletter's new editor

It is worth the annual membership fee to receive this wonderful publication. If you are not yet a member of the Shakespeare Oxford Society, please consider joining now. The newsletter will be yours, and you will be part of an organization with a proud history of research and discovery which will some day lead us to world wide recognition of the true author. 

Tom
Your Chairman

Monday, September 21, 2009

Falling Roof!


Sorry, I just couldn't resist posting this excerpt from the web. It can be found at

It actually refers to a serious problem (and the website does eventually spell "falling" correctly), but it struck me as perhaps a nice summary of the true feeling of some "orthodox" scholars in the face of all the mounting evidence that "their guy" was NOT THE ONE. I think this explains why there are suddenly so many new "biographies" of Shakespeare coming out. It is a direct response to the points being made by Oxfordians and other "Anti-Stratfordians" (I actually don't really like that term).

Anyway, this excerpt and the website it comes from is actually about the real problem that the roof over the bust and grave of William Shakespeare in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon is in urgent need of repair and that the charity organization "Friends of Shakespeare's Church" is trying to raise money right away to help out. They were founded in 2002 in order to help raise the money to pay for a massive multi-year campaign to preserve and fix the church. This included the 2008 "revamping" of Shakespeare's grave (see my previous blog from May 29, 2008). But now they need immediate funds to fix the roof which was an unanticipated problem.

More information can also be found at these two sites:



I actually think that Stratford-upon-Avon will still have a future after Edward deVere becomes recognized as the "true Shakespeare" After all, the village of Castle Hedingham does not seem to want all the publicity which will come to them when a new Birthplace is proclaimed.

Stratford can still show off their Birthplace and the other Shakespeare Properties. They will just have to refer to the Birthplace as the birthplace of the "Man Formerly Known as the Bard" or "the Bard's Front Man" or "the man who stole the credit for writing the plays" or "the man whose name was similar to the playwright's and just got confused with him" or whatever the real reason for the original attribution of the works to this Stratford local turns out to be.

So don't feel bad about giving a donation to help preserve Holy Trinity Church even if you are an "Anti-Stratfordian" (there's that term again). After all, we need to preserve information about past mistakes, misconceptions, and myths so that we can learn from them.

Let's also hope that the "orthodox" scholars don't get too hurt when the metaphorical "roof over Shakespeare's head" does eventually fall.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Plummer in Tempest next year at Stratford, Ont.


The Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada will headline Christopher Plummer as Prospero in The Tempest, according to an August 26 report in the Toronto Star:
I am very excited to have Christopher Plummer return to the Festival for The Tempest, one of Shakespeare's most haunting and magical plays," said artistic director Des McAnuff, who will also direct the production.
http://www.thestar.com/theatre/stratford/article/686787
Plummer's new biography,  In Spite of Myself: A Memoir published by Alfred Knopf is reviewed by Caldwell Titcomb on The Arts Fuse blog:
This huge autobiography is crammed with details. Plummer must have an extraordinary memory or carefully kept diaries – perhaps both. Hundreds of people, well known and unknown, pop up in these pages briefly or extensively. He does not spare himself, admitting to constant carousing throughout the first half of his life. From what he repeatedly tells us, it is a miracle that he did not succumb to cirrhosis long ago.
 http://blog.theartsfuse.com/2009/09/19/book-review-christopher-plummer-recounts-his-life/

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wild Midsummer -- the village people do Shakespeare

Bill Marx reviews the Cambridge MA American Repertory Theater's The Donkey Show for The Arts Fuse blog in his Theater Review: The A.R.T. Shakes its Ass:
. . . In “The Donkey Show” Shakespeare’s romance exists solely to provide opportunities for gymnastic eye candy. Sweaty, nimble, and buff, A.R.T. cast members jump, skitter, climb, cavort, and undulate among the dancing party goers; they scamper up and down the walls, platforms, tables, and stairs in the cabaret-ized Zero Arrow Theater. Their colorful costumes are skimpy and glittery; the lighting glaring.
See the entire review at: http://blog.theartsfuse.com/2009/09/18/theater-review-the-art-shakes-its-ass/

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tom Hunter invites you to Sept. 16 meeting


Dear Oberon,
 
Just a brief reminder that our regular September meeting will be this Wednesday, same place Farmington Community Library, and same time 7 p.m., doors open at 6:45.
 
We will have a packed meeting plus we will be introducing Marty Hyatt's handsome, thought provoking new poster promoting Oxford.  You will want a copy for yourself.
 
Many thanks to Linda Theil for hosting a great Oberon pot luck dinner at her home yesterday afternoon.  In addition to great food and great company, we were treated to a showing of the original PBS Frontline program, "The Shakespeare Mystery", which brought national attention to the authorship issue almost 20 years ago.  I do recall how instrumental that program was in getting my attention and in generating the greater understanding of Shakespeare and the much greater enjoyment of those great works which has resulted.  If you have never seen that program or haven't seen it recently, check it out online at PBS right now.
 
Tom Hunter, Oberon Chair

Oberon Pot Luck

Prashant, his wife Annette, and Richard J. in the foreground

A happy crowd of 22 guests enjoyed the annual Oberon pot luck gathering yesterday in Howell. After our picnic on the porch, we watched the PBS Frontline special "The Shakespeare Mystery" originally aired in April, 1989. This twenty-year-old documentary on the authorship question remains fresh and forceful. The fact that the film introduced me to Charleton Ogburn, Jr. and his work made watching it in the company of like-minded friends especially pleasurable. Thanks to Ray for sharing his copy. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Reasonists?


In reviewing my "daily dose" of Doonesbury, I came across the installment from September 6, 2009. To see the actual comic (I'm not sure if I have the right to show it here in this blog), you can go to www.doonesbury.com/strip/dailydose/index.html?uc_full_date=20090906 or http://images.ucomics.com/comics/db/2009/db090906.gif

In the comic, Mark Slackmeyer (I think that's his name) is interviewing a "conspiratologist" named Page Griffin on his radio show and referring to American gullibility in that "Americans believe in many things that can't be verified."

The "conspiratologist" Page Griffin refers to some conspiracy theories such as truthism (that Bush was behind 9/11), birthism, JFK grassy knollers, and the staged moon landingists.

In the last two frames, Mark asks Page, "Professor, is there any counter to these powerful theorists?" Page answers, "Not really. Mark, only the Reasonists." Mark: "Reasonists?" Page: "They believe in an evidence-based world, something called Rationalism, but it's a tiny group, not so influential."

While many people would put our Oxfordian "movement" and the whole question of the Authorship of Shakespeare's plays into the "conspiracy" camp, I would prefer to think of us as members of the Reasonists. It seems like we (and other authorship groups) like to look at the evidence and see where it leads, rather that simply accept "revealed truth" or appeal to authority (as Sally Jenkins has done in her recent Washington Post article and follow-up discussion, see previous blogs for more details).

I have always said that I don't care if someone comes to the conclusion that the works were written by William of Stratford, as long as that person has actually looked at the evidence and truly decided that the evidence points to him as the author. (I would have a hard time believing that someone could come to this conclusion, but I wouldn't argue with the process).

But to ignore the evidence or pretend that anyone seeking such evidence either is some kind of "traitor" to literature or is "certifiable" (or has "taken a stupid pill") is not something that we can tolerate.

Up with Rationalism!




Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sally Jenkins live discussion of Post article

Click here to see a transcript of the live discussion with Sally Jenkins held at noon on Aug. 31, 2009.


I thought the discussion was pretty lame. Every time an anti-Strat made a comment, she didn't respond, she just dismissed the comment as if she'd found something dirty on her shoe. Here's an example:
Anonymous: There are a plethora of red flags that pop up in the Stratford Man's pretension of having created the Shakespeare canon. You mention none of them. Why is there not a single dedication to Shakespeare? Why not a single link between the works and the man from Stratford until 1623? How could an uneducated man, before public libraries and the first english dictionary, bring 3,000 new words into our language? Surely a highly tutored royal, with time to spare, and experts to hire, would be a more plausibe author, don't you think? read what "amateur" Walt Whitman says on the matter!
Sally Jenkins: A classic statement of anti-man-from-Stratford sentiment. Thanks for writing.



Still, they say all publicity is good publicity.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Correction: Oct. meeting is Oct. 7

Correction: Our October meeting is not Oct. 14; the meeting will be held at 6:45 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Farmington Community Library. See information on sidebar.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Authorship cover story in Washington Post magazine today

Waiting for William: After four centuries, we may finally be seeing history's greatest writer for the first time By Sally Jenkins Washington Post, August 30, 2009 (with slideshow) 

Writer Sally Jenkins will be taking questions about this Cobbe portrait story on Monday, August 31 at 12 noon. 
Click here to submit comments or questions before or during the discussion.


***
This credulous article by Sally Jenkins is as much about authorship as the Cobbe portrait. She immediately -- in the second paragraph -- points out that Stanley Well’s favored Cobbe portrait of Shakespeare brings the authorship into question, but she dismisses an aristocratic connection with a flip of the wrist.

“The fellow is clearly no earl -- he lacks the arrogant jaw -- but he's someone. Maybe too much of a someone to be a mere playwright.” 

As if weak chins or arrogant jaws -- whatever they may be -- never occurred in the noble English genome. She then goes on to describe how very Shakespearean the sitter appears:
Then again, there’s a touch of Shakespearean mischief in his face. He wears a barely checked smile and a blush. He’s ardent, and Shakespeare was nothing if not a lover.
Well! Case closed – the Cobbe is definitely Shakespeare!


The author reports that Alec Cobbe is a descendant of Southampton 3 – the purported lovely boy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets – who also discovered a family-owned portrait of the youthful Southampton, assisted by a longtime friend and art-restorer, Alastair Laing.


The author again touches and veres from the authorship question when she refers to the 2006 “Searching for Shakespeare” exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in London: 
‘Searching for Shakespeare’ was a quixotic title for a show, given that it's hard to go searching for someone when you don't have much of an idea who he was. What Shakespeare looked like in his prime is just one of the many things disputed about him, along with how many plays he wrote and in what order, whether he was a nice guy or a jerk, how he treated his wife, if he was a bisexual, or a secret Catholic, and what killed him at age 53.
She then delivers a coup de gras to the authorship commenting about the Droeshout and the Stratford bust:
Both depictions are so unintelligent-looking that scholars blame them for instigating the Author Controversy, which is not really a controversy so much as a campaign by conspiracy-minded amateurs to prove that someone more visually appealing wrote the plays.
How’s that for intelligent commentary? Scholars blame the ugly looks of the author for the authorship question? OMG, DdUC dat nt cute guy? Would these be the scholars from Local Middle School? No! Jensen quotes two traditional Stratfordian scholars: Greenblatt and Garber, to support this view that she says is held by non-traditional anti-Strats.


Here is how she proceeds to demolish what she calls the Author Controversy:
The Author Controversy persists despite considerable documentary evidence. We have the man from Stratford's pay stubs for performing at court, his certificate of occupancy for the Globe Theatre, and his will, in which he left memorial rings to some London actors. Funny he would do that if he was just a country burgher who didn't write the plays.
Then she says something totally amazing: “Still, it would help to have a decent picture of the man in his prime to keep the conspiracy theorists at bay.”


How is it possible that after a century of authorship research, a statement like this can be made in one of the country’s most respected journals? I can’t imagine that any rational person could construe the authorship question in this abysmal light.


And she quotes Stratfordian Jonathan Bate to further support her thesis that the authorship question rests on the Bard’s appearance:
The problem with Shakespeare is that here is this work of phenomenal beauty and intelligence, endlessly rewarding, and yet there is this awful picture of this bald bloke," says Bate. "People are desperate to find an image that answers to more our idea of the sort of glamour of genius, the glamour of creativity.
She’s setting up a anti-Strat straw-man with Stratfordian quotes. This is why rhetoric should be taught in high school.


Besides asserting that geniuses must be glamorous, Jenkins makes other non-sensical statements and repeatedly makes the anti-Stratfordian case by quoting Stratfordians. For example: 
(Stratfordian Stanley) Wells acknowledges the patchwork nature of his reasoning. ‘You have to do a lot of stitching,’ he says. ‘Where you've only got a limited number of pieces, you've got to create the links.’
“Scholars” she says, do agree that Shakespeare “probably” sat for a portrait in his heyday. But, oops! No one can find this probable portrait!


She also says that one of the categories of evidence for Shakespeare’s identity is “ . . . what you can be pretty certain of based on the contextual evidence” and for this type of evidence she gives the example, “. . . he was exposed to great theater as a boy . . .” Maybe on one of his frequent visits to Kenilworth.


She even drags out the sad old “killing a calf in high style” story, and asserts the Stratford man “was educated” although there is no evidence for this assertion he was educated.
As a middle-class elite, he was educated at the local grammar school, where from age 7 to 15, six days a week, Stratford boys memorized Ovid, Terence and Plautus. It was an exquisite education taught by a succession of young Oxford scholars and would strain today's college student.
No evidence. In fact, counter-evidence based on his signatures and his lack of interest in educating his family would indicate the Stratford man was uneducated.


She follows with a short bio pitted with “perhaps”, “probably”, and more unsubstantiated statements and circular reasoning.
‘One of the biographical inferences you can make is that he took his craft seriously,’ says Folger director Gail Kern Paster. ‘The plays aren't good by accident. Someone is learning how to create stories and characters that will live in memory, how to create stories of human conflict that will resonate. He's trying really hard to do a really good job.’
Well, yes, that might be true of whoever wrote the plays, but says nothing about who that writer might be.
In about 1598, a series of satirical plays by an unknown author were performed for the entertainment of students at St. John's College, Cambridge (among them was the lovely young Southampton).
Southampton left Cambridge over a decade earlier.


She said, “By the mid- to late-1590s, he was so hugely popular that his name began appearing on quartos of his plays, the Tudor version of paperbacks -- the first time audiences ever cared who wrote their entertainments.”


This quarto/paperback pairing is a false analogy that gives the reader an inaccurate sense of familiarity with Shakespeare’s milieu, a breezy tactic the author uses repeatedly. A book in quarto cost about 9 shillings in Elizabethan England, a time when a master craftsman made about a shilling a day. That would make this purported Tudor paperback cost the equivalent of nine days pay. The only possible similarity with modern paperbacks is the fact that the quarto would have come from the printer unbound – requiring further outlay by the buyer to provide a cover for the book.


When reporting the “academic brawl” Wells ran into over his support of the Cobbe portrait, the author emphases Wells “eminence” and describes his appearance as an “elegant-voiced lecturer with a fine white beard” to support his authority along with his work as a Shakespeare editor and ex-governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company


Jenkins quoted Wells’ demur over what he called a circumstantial case for the Cobbe portrait as Shakespeare: “I've never declared myself absolutely finally certain."


She said the portrait was dated to 1610 when the Stratfordian would have been 46-years-old. Personally I think a viewer (See slide show that accompanies the article.) would have to be powerfully deluded to deduce the man in the Cobbe is middle-aged. Jenkins seems to address this issue later in the article when she asserts that portraits of the era did not include “. . . bad teeth, pockmarks, crow’s feet, graying hair, warts or moles.” Nor, one would suppose by that reasoning, did anyone see portraits of any sitters over the age of thirty.


What Jenkins called the “tortuous” process of authentication is reviewed in the Post article.
She appeals to a higher human power in her final analysis:
Faced with myriad images, the question becomes, "Which one do I think is him?" For that answer, the seeker has to employ something other than science or provenance, something described by a playwright with his own obsession with Shakespeare, who has arguably captured him better than any biographer.
"Gut instinct," Tom Stoppard writes in his play "Arcadia." "The part of you which doesn't reason. The certainty for which there is no back reference. Because time is reversed. Tock, tick goes the universe and then recovers itself, but it was enough, you were in there and you bloody know."
Her article continues with a long romantic story about Shakespeare and Southhampton ending with the Essex Rebellion and the staging of Richard II, moving onto Shakespeare’s 1603-04 “spree” of Othello, Lear, and Macbeth. She relates confined doom “Sonnet 107” to Southampton’s release by James I and concludes that “Of all the riddles of Shakespeare’s live, the will is the most puzzling.”


Yes, indeed, no mention of any manuscripts, books, or papers and by his signatures no indication that the man could actually write.